THIS year will be extra-special at the Chatsworth Nissan International Horse Trials as it is an Olympic year.
The world’s best riders are expected to compete as they prepare their horses ahead of the all-important competition in August.
Set against the backdrop of Chatsworth House on the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire’s Peak District estate the two-day equestrian festival takes place next Saturday and Sunday.
Oliver Townend, originally from Huddersfield, will be competing with a number of his horses, along with reigning world champion Zara Phillips and European team gold medallist Mary King.
Also, William Fox-Pitt, Sarah Cohen, Pippa Funnell and Daisy Dick are among the potential British Olympic Squad members expected to compete this year.
International riders Andrew Nicholson (NZ) and Clayton and Lucinda Fredericks (Aus) are Chatsworth regulars and are also aiming to represent their countries at the Olympics.
Local rider Sue Chadwick, from Crosland Moor is a regular competitor at Chatsworth and will be competing in the advanced section with her top horse, RJ Maxi.
With the event being so close to home it’s a great opportunity to go along to support local riders like Sue, as well as a chance to see other top riders from all over the world in action.
The highlight of the weekend is the FEI World CupTM Qualifier, a class which seems to prove lucky for the winners.
Last year’s victors, Mary King and Call Again Cavalier, went on to represent Britain at the European Championships and win team gold and individual silver, while previous winner Clayton Fredericks took silver later that year at the World Championships.
Here’s hoping the winner of this year’s event goes on to claim gold in Hong Kong, the venue for the equestrian activities at the Beijing Olympics.
The FEI World CupTM Qualifier, in which there is a dressage phase to test harmony between horse and rider, followed by the thrilling cross-country phase that uses some of Chatsworth’s historic features, including Queen Mary’s Bower, comes to an exciting climax on the Sunday afternoon with the showjumping in reverse order in front of the crowds.
The winner takes home the prized Chatsworth Trophy, which will be presented by the duke and duchess.
Continuing the Olympic theme, the cross-country course will be presented by Mike Etherington-Smith and built by David Evans and his team, who are also responsible for the Olympic course at Beas River just outside the bustling Hong Kong city.
Will the riders be given a sneak preview of what to expect later this year?
One thing is certain; the natural features and undulations of the parkland surrounding Chatsworth, combined with Mike’s flair for design, will test the horses and riders while providing entertainment for visitors.
Away from the equestrian action there is a range of family entertainments, including over 80 quality trade stands including a Rural Crafts tent, a country fair atmosphere and children’s attractions.
There is also a great range of arena shows, including a bird of prey display by James McKay, from the National Hawking School in Derby, Cyril the Squirrel and, returning by popular demand, Chariots of Fire with Amanda Saville and her amazing fire-jumping ponies, plus musical interludes by the Bakewell Silver Band.
Admission to the Chatsworth Nissan International Horse Trials will be £12 on Saturday and £14 on Sunday, with a daily car park charge of £2.
Visitors to the horse trials can also visit Chatsworth’s house, farmyard and gardens at a reduced price, with accompanied children aged 14 and under admitted free.
Check the website for news and early bird online booking discounts, www.chatsworth.org
For further information ring 01295 788492